Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Sir George Martin - All Quiet On The Mersey Front

Of all the well known producers that have graced recording studios over the last 100 years, none can compare to the exhaustive résumé of Sir George Martin, who sadly passed away yesterday aged 90.

George will always be synonymous with The Fab Four, but even before George Harrison insulted his tie, Martin had successfully turned round the fortunes of the Parlophone arm of EMI. Taking over  as A&R Manager of what was regarded as a label for EMI's insignificant acts in 1955, Martin had released a discography of hugely successful comedy acts from Peter Sellers, The Goons to the groundbreaking satirical "That Was The Week That Was". It was this pedigree of comedy and tape effects that would cement his relationship with The Beatles, who were themselves huge Goons fans.

The Rubber Soul to White album "golden years" contains many of the tape effects that many believe where at the vanguard of a new sound. In fact, Les Paul had used different recording speeds back in the 1950 on his album "The New Sound". The first Beatles track to use a tape different speed was also the first Beatle song that George Martin performed on.

Misery was recorded on the infamous day long session of February the 11th, on which the bulk of their debut album was recorded. On February 20th, with the Beatles out touring with Helen Shapiro, George Martin added some piano embellishment first heard after the line "I Remember all the little things we done..."  The standard speed for the twin track EMI BTR tape machines was 15 ips (inches per second). To facilitate playing the tricky piano run, the track was bounced onto another machine that ran at 30 ips, the overdub was then performed an octave lower at half the speed (15 ips), which when played back at the original speed gives the piano sound a unique timbre. Martin would again use this approach for the baroque piano solo in Rubber Soul's "In My Life".

His creative input into The Beatles is immeasurable, it was his idea for the crashing chord at the start of "A Hard Day's Night" which he also played piano on and starting "Can't Buy Me Love" with the chorus.

Together with a long and winding list of artists and industry awards that would need eight arms to hold them, George's work as an arranger and composer, leaves behind a staggering legacy of achievement.

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